With canning season just around the corner, it's time to prep canning tools and supplies. The quick guide below provides an overview of canning and what it takes to have the block's best canned food. While there are a few ways to can food, the easiest is a hot water bath, where goods are put into a jar, a lid placed on top, then placed in hard boiling water for an amount of time according to the type of food being canned. This is not a process meant for vegetables in general, except tomatoes.
First, decide what you plan on canning. Some of the easiest are tomatoes, apples, pears, or berries. Also, consider the different products to make, such as sauce, jam, puree, compote, sliced, diced, or quartered fruit. Ensure plenty of jars of varying sizes (think homemade gifts for the holidays), rims, new lids, food mill, funnel, large pot that the jars can be immersed in, and quality tongs to lift the hot jars.
Next, ensure the jars are clean and prepare your canning area. Fill your large pot with water, set out your jars, new lids, rings, tongs, and fold a large bath towel for the table or counter for the canned goods to cool. Once organized, set the pot of water on high. Then cook, parboil, prepare the light syrup, or otherwise prepare and season the food. For sliced, diced, and larger pieces, keep leftover or odd pieces for sauces and purees. This is where the food mill comes into play.
A food mill saves time in peeling and de-seeding tomatoes and will minimize those annoying berry seeds. Plus, using a stainless steel food mill will provide new body and texture to your canned tomato sauce, jams, and purees. For those new to canning, a worthwhile investment is a quality food mill. If canning is your hobby, but you still use a strainer or blender in your canning process, make an investment in the Hungry Artisan Food Mill. Efficiently process pieces in the food mill for a thick, rich-tasting puree or sauce.
Once the food is prepared, start canning the goods. Clean off the rim of the jar and add the lid and ring. Before the jars are placed in the water bath, the boiling water should be rolling. Depending on your pot, 1-4 jars may fit. Best practices are to boil the same fruit together to ensure every jar is boiled for the right amount of time. Times will also depend on the altitude and size of jars being used. Most canning recipes will include bathing times. Use your preferred source for recipes or visit Food Network's Canning, Pickling, and Preserves 101.
When the time is up, carefully take the jars out using the tongs, and place the jars upright on the bath towel until cooled. Store the cooled jars in a cool place. After opening, store in the refrigerator and consume within 3 days unless it is pickled (those are good for up to a year). For gifting, simply use a sharpie to label the lid, tie some ribbon or twine in a simple bow. Happy canning!